Filmsite Movie Review
I'm No Angel (1933)
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Background

In the comedy classic, I'm No Angel (1933), one of Mae West's three best films, she was reunited with supporting star Cary Grant following their success in She Done Him Wrong (1933). (This film even surpassed their previous film's record at the box-office.) Appearing just before restrictions would be imposed by the Production Code on motion pictures, this was West's second original effort, and was partially written and directed by her.

The funny plot directed by Wesley Ruggles, about West as a floozy lady lion tamer who makes it big on Broadway and hustles men out of their money, was an excuse to load up on the comical talents, quotable wisecracks and one-liners, and racy double entendres in her promiscuous dialogue, suggestive songs and body language.

The Story

A one-ring circus and sideshow carnival, called Big Bill Barton's Wonder Show is managed by Big Bill Barton (Edward Arnold). As the barker (Russell Hopton) tempts a crowded audience to enter, a carnival pickpocket named Slick Wiley (Ralf Harolde) works the crowd.

Carnival queen and dazzling international small-time circus star performer Tira (Mae West), the Incomparable, is the side-show's vamp attraction. The barker uses her to lure middle-aged male patrons into the show. She is introduced:

Over there, Tira, the beautiful Tira, dancing, singing, marvel of the age, supreme flower of feminine pulchritude, the girl who discovered you don't have to have feet to be a dancer.

Tira's sauntering entrance is preceded by a red-carpet roll-out and trumpeters. On the midway on a raised catwalk, while parading past a crowd of leering men in a sexy gown, she purrs to the spectators:

A penny for your thoughts. Got the idea boys. You follow me?

Inside the show, she performs "Sister Honky Tonk," moving with suggestive body motion behind a veil. Another of Tira's talents is to hustle and personally attract the attention of wealthy, diamond-ringed spectators. After playing with her erotic costume and shimmying, she exits from the stage:

Am I makin' myself clear, boys? Suckers.

Big Bill wants her to work the lions that night as she leaves, but she responds:

I'm gonna be a bad girl and go home to bed. I'm tired of tossin' my hips.

Tira normally performs with the lions after her sideshow stint. Rajah (Nigel de Brulier), the astrologer reads her horoscope:

Rajah: You were born in August.
Tira: Yeah, one of the hot months.
Rajah: It was on the 17th under the sign of Leo, the Lion.
Tira: Aw, King of the Beasts, huh.

She is warned to be careful that night, because she might be unlucky. Tira then asks about her future, because she knows all about her past:

Rajah: Ah, you have a wonderful future. I see a man in your life.
Tira: What, only one?
Rajah: But this is one very particular man. He is very wealthy, enormously wealthy.
Tira: ...What does he look like?
Rajah: I see he has brown eyes. In fact, I see two men...two different men. In the near future, I see a change....I see a change of position.
Tira: Sitting or reclining?...
Rajah: The horoscope. Keep this where you may consult it frequently.
Tira: All right, I'll take it to bed with me.

She returns to her place that she shares with Slick Wiley. Although she lives with Slick, she also maintains a place away from the circus. He complains how cool she has been to him lately. He wonders why she acts so "high-hat," not wanting to help the circus by performing regularly with the lions, and for often being away from the show lot.

Tira is sick and tired of the show: "I've got about as much privacy around here as a goldfish." Then, she notices his slick new haircut: "What did you do? Did you get your hair cut or have your ears moved down?" He appears jealous when she is brought a note from an admirer. As she leaves for a hot date, she advises her friend Thelma with her personal motto:

Always remember, honey. A good motto is: Take all you can get and give as little as possible.

Tira explains how she nabs rich men - with her philosophy of how to treat men:

Don't forget, honey. Never let one man worry your mind. Find 'em, fool 'em and forget 'em.

As she leaves the circus grounds, an amorous trapeze artist makes a play for her. She warns him to be careful and not feel crazy about her when he's up on the flying rings. She fondles his arm, while reassuring his acrobatic partner: "Don't worry. I ain't gonna hurt him. I only wanna feel his muscles."

Tira intends to shake down an admiring, visiting suitor in his hotel room, a Chump named Ernest Brown (Wm. B. Davidson) - the one in the crowd who had earlier flashed his expensive ring at her. He claims that she is different. She replies: "Anything different always costs more, but it's worth it." Tira asks him how many times he has been married. When he replies five times, this causes her to react:

Tira: Five times!...Wedding bells must sound like an alarm clock to you.
The Chump: I don't suppose you believe in marriage, do you?
Tira: Only as a last resort...What do you do for a livin'?
The Chump: Oh, uh, sort of a politician.
Tira: I don't like work either.
The Chump: Oh, you know I like to get around and travel, and believe me, I've been places and seen things.
Tira: I've been things and seen places. That sorta evens us up, huh?

Learning that he is from Dallas, she puts on a record: "No One Loves Me Like that Dallas Man," (originally titled No One Does It Like That Dallas Man), choosing the appropriate city title from among similar records for Frisco and Memphis Men. The song's racy lyrics have a number of suggestive lines:

Why, brother, he's a wild horse trainer,
With a special whip -
Gals you'll go insaner
When he gets you in his grip...

She dances seductively in front of him as he warms up to her:

The Chump: You're certainly givin' me the time of my life, baby.
Tira: Don't say givin'. I don't like that word givin'.

She gives him a long kiss.


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